The subtle facelift includes a reshaped front bumper and slimmer tiger nose grille. Picture: SUPPLIED
The subtle facelift includes a reshaped front bumper and slimmer tiger nose grille. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Kia Rio started life as an oddball that was somewhat a wagon-ish hatch. That was back in 1999. Since then it has morphed into a handsome little hatchback with strong styling cues, in a competitive segment populated by the Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and others.

The current model has received a minor facelift and a new value-for-money 1.4 LS model. The facelift involves a bolder facade created by a redesigned front bumper and some small detail change to the headlights and tiger nose grille. The range also gets alloy wheels as standard across the range, a 20.3cm infotainment screen and two new colour options.

Because the Rio is roomy both for people and luggage, it’s available as a five-door only with a pair of engines and trims to choose from.

Driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags and Isofix child seat anchors, ABS are fitted standard across the range but it’s from LX grade that the kit is boosted with ESC and Hill assist control.

Connectivity is taken care of by USB and auxiliary-in ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and Bluetooth.

Higher- ranking TEC and EX models bring in luxuries such as automatic air-conditioning, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, LED rear combination lamps, cruise control, alloy pedals, leather upholstery, LED Daytime Running Lights, rear park assistance system with camera and 17-inch alloy wheels, while the Kia Rio TEC may also be ordered with a factory-fitted sunroof as an option for R8,000.

All the engines are naturally-aspirated petrol units.

There’s a 1.25l engine with peak outputs of 61kW and 120Nm that promises many kilometres to the litre, and a 1.4l with 73kW and 135Nm. The range comes in a five-speed manual transmission (on the Rio 1.2) or a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission (on the Rio 1.4l).

A neat dash layout with a larger touch screen infotainment greets you in the 2020 Rio. Picture: SUPPLIED
A neat dash layout with a larger touch screen infotainment greets you in the 2020 Rio. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Rio loses a bit of its appeal when you consider its turbo-less engines, but the 1.4l model I drove at the launch seems to present good enough urge to satisfy the casual consumer and match equivalent rivals.

Some buyers may be put off by the average R20,000 premium to get into the six-speed self-shifting models. The 5-speed manual didn’t sully the driving experience at all, rewarding with light action and short-throw changes.

Only 1.4 models get a six-speed ’box which should calm the engine in its top gearing, resulting in a more refined, and quieter drive.

The charm of the Rio goes beyond the facial retouch. There’s an uncomplicated and straightforward simplicity about it, enhanced by sporty looks and an accomplished ride quality.

Kia Rio models come standard with an unlimited kilometre/five-year warranty.

 

PRICES

Kia Rio 1.2 LS Manual — R280,995

Kia Rio 1.4 LS Manual — R291,995

Kia Rio 1.4 LS Auto — R308,995

Kia Rio 1.4 LX Manual — R306,995

Kia Rio 1.4 LX Auto — R323,995

Kia Rio 1.4 EX Manual — R319,995

Kia Rio 1.4 EX Auto — R336,995

Kia Rio 1.4 TEC Manual — R344,995

Kia Rio 1.4 TEC Auto — R361,995

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.